Pediatricians and other experts will always advise parents to teach their kids how to self-soothe. Although there are still many myths that surround self-soothing and the ability of babies to learn how to do it mothers that try and succeed in doing it know that it is the holy grail of baby sleep. Once a child learns how to self-soothe he/she will be able to sleep for several hours uninterrupted, and this translates to healthy development.
Self-soothing is when an infant can manage his/her emotions or in other words, calm and fall asleep without intervention from the parent. Although you can help your baby acquire this skill, in reality, you cannot teach them how to do it as you can only provide the necessary tools to help them learn.
One of these tools is making sure that infant has access to the hands which is what most will use in the soothing. However, the skill will also not come until they are old enough to know how to do it.
When Do Babies Learn To Self-Soothe?
Self-soothing sounds like something very basic that will come automatically. However, this is not true because babies do not know how to do it when they are born, and they will take quite some time to acquire this important skill.
When a child is born, he does not have the ability to control or regulate his emotions and so he needs the parents to step in. It is vital to comfort the baby when he is upset by rocking, feeding, and holding because he does not yet have the self-soothing skills.
However, as the child continues to grow the ability to control his emotions develop because the brain also matures. As this ability improves, the infant will be able to sooth himself to sleep without any intervention from the parents. However, experts do not agree on when the child develops this ability or the right time to start teaching him to self-soothe.
Some are of the opinion that the infant is ready and the brain is mature enough to learn four weeks after birth. However, others disagree with this and are of the opinion that the baby is still too young. According to this school of thought trying to make the child self-soothe at this point can be very stressful and so they are of the opinion that you should wait till they are 4-6 months.
Although different experts might have varying views on this subject, most parents will agree that infants will start learning how to self-sooth after four months.
According to most mothers, this is also the right time to start teaching them because their sleep pattern is mature and their brain can handle any stress that might come as they learn to self-soothe. At this point, the child is also too young to have any negative sleep habits that he cannot stop.
But, it is important to know that the right time to learn to self-soothe will vary from one child to the other because kids develop differently. Also, keep in mind that the infant will not be able to self-sooth all the time and he will still need your help in many instances.
Most babies will develop the ability to self-soothe after a few months. Whereas the ability might not always help them sleep it will reduce the instances that you have to intervene as a parent. Kids with insistent personalities will take longer to develop self-soothing abilities than those with reserved characters. However, regardless of the personality of your child, it is still important to intervene to help them learn this important skill, and you can do this in the following ways.
1. Establish A Consistent Bedtime Schedule
Regular nap and bedtime routines are vital if you want your baby to get enough and healthy sleep. If you do not have a routine, you should establish one by ensuring that your baby safe during sleep at almost the same time every day.
Creating a routine will let the child know when it is time to sleep or wake up using their internal sleep clock. A routine gives the baby signals that it is time to sleep and so by following it he will be able to self-soothe easily.
2. Allow Some Crying Time
No parent wants to hear their kid crying even for a few seconds, and most will rush to comfort them. However, if you want him to learn how to self-sooth, it is important to allow them to cry for a couple of minutes. By doing this, you will give the infant adequate time to reach for the fingers or toes to calm himself down which is an essential part of learning how to self-soothe.
3. Practice Putting The Baby To Bed When Still Awake
Putting your infant to bed when he is still awake but drowsy might not look like a good idea, but it will help him know how to self-soothe. Once you put the baby in bed, the chances are that he will fall asleep on his own if he is sleepy enough. However, this might not always work because the child may scream out and you will have to start rocking him all over again. The secret is not to give up, and instead keep trying until he learns how to soothe himself.
4. Stop Feeding Him To Sleep
Most mothers have a habit of breastfeeding or giving their infants a bottle so that he can fall asleep faster. However, if you want him to be able to learn how to sleep without your help, you should stop this habit because it makes the child use the breast milk or a bottle as their sleep aid. Try to come up with other bedtime routines such as singing a lullaby or taking a bath as they will let him know when it is time to sleep.
5. Start Early
Do not wait too long to start teaching your infant how to self-soothe because many research finding proves that the longer you wait, the harder it will become for the kid to learn. Although experts may have varying opinions on the right time to start, you should not wait for more than six months after birth.
As much as you love your baby, it can be tiring to keep waking up at night to calm him to sleep. However, you do not have to go through all that if you teach him how to self-soothe. The five methods above will help you out, but the secret is to be patient as your child learns.